The Cy-Fair ISD board of trustees debated recommendations for the fiscal year 2024-25 budget at an April 22 workshop based on proposals from the district’s budget reduction advisory committee.

The details

Chief of Staff Teresa Hull said eliminating positions that are either vacant or will be by the end or the year as well as those where job functions could be absorbed into another position could save the district $43.66 million. Those positions could include:
  • Teachers
  • Operations and maintenance staff
  • Curriculum coaches
  • Directors, coordinators and managers
  • Support staff and administrative assistants
  • Other professional-level positions
  • Campus administrators
Superintendent Doug Killian emphasized the need for the district to give teachers and staff the recommended 2% raise to continue being competitive in the education market. Officials estimate this would cost $18 million to implement districtwide.

Heading into FY 2024-25, district officials are also prepared to not have Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding—federal stimulus funding to help public schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic—to offset any potential budget shortfalls as they have in the past few years, as 2023-24 is the last year they are available.

The consensus among board members favored raises for teachers and staff, and only making cuts that would have a limited impact on students’ day-to-day learning experience and safety.

Diving deeper

The budget reduction advisory committee sifted through community feedback and ranked cost-saving measures by priority, including district-level position cuts, cutting back on energy expenses, limiting transportation services, and reducing conference periods for middle and high school teachers.

These cost-saving recommendations, among others, amounted to nearly $45.5 million in savings to the district. However, these items won't all necessarily end up in the approved budget.

The committee also considered and ranked revenue-generating solutions. Hull said some ideas—including increasing varsity football ticket prices as well as outside facilities use and natatorium fees—will be implemented July 1. Other recommendations are being researched and could be implemented later to impact the FY 2025-26 budget, she said.

A voter-approved tax rate election this November or in November 2025 could bring in an additional $109 million for the district. However, the committee did not rank this option as a high priority, and that funding isn't guaranteed as it depends on the election outcome.

The possible delay in opening Byrd Elementary School was also discussed, but after examining the potential overcrowding of existing schools, the option was effectively removed from the list of measures.

In their own words

Chief Financial Officer Karen Smith said since there has been no increase in the basic allotment—funding public schools receive per student—from the state despite record inflation, CFISD would be in a worse budget position without federal stimulus dollars.

“So some of the items that have impacted the budget, or the deficit, is the fact that there's been no increase in the basic allotment since 2019 and record inflation of 19%,” she said. “The basic allotment is currently $6,160, and estimates based on 19% inflation would be that we would need to receive $1,100 additional just to get us where we were in 2019.”

Nikki Cowart, president of the Cy-Fair chapter of the American Federation of Teachers union, said regardless of the reasons for the budget crisis, the board must consider teachers and students first and foremost.

“Our union members still want the same thing no matter what—resources for the students that we serve, respect at work, a manageable workload, and most importantly, a pay increase to feed our own families. Again, the deeds of politicians should not be on the backs of our hardworking employees or our deserving students,” Cowart said.

Also of note

Smith said when CFISD approved the FY 2023-24 budget last June, it included an anticipated shortfall of $138.6 million.

However, that shortfall is now expected to be about $15.1 million for several reasons, including:
  • The district received $5 million more than expected in federal stimulus funds.
  • The district is expected to gain about $42 million due to unfilled positions.
What else?

The board will meet to continue discussing budget options next month. The next work session is scheduled for May 2, followed by the regular monthly board meeting May 6.